Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your pancakes and sausage ... on a stick.

Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald: "There's something there. As much as neither wanted to admit to even the slightest bit of dislike for each other, there's something between Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade that has somehow remained trapped in the confines of the locker room they used to share. The encounters are becoming a little less friendly each time, and they are heading to the verge of just plain chilly. That was Udonis Haslem, not Wade, whom O'Neal spent the pregame chatting up for several minutes, with Dorell Wright coming in late for a few words of his own. [...] During the game, Wade broke the cardinal rule of playing against O'Neal, which goes something like this: Thou shalt not attempt to dunk on Shaq, at least if you want to retain consciousness and four healthy limbs. Wade knows that. He said as much before the two played against each other for the first time this year in Phoenix."

Mary Schmitt Boyer, Cleveland Plain-Dealer: "Three years ago, when the Cavaliers clinched their first playoff berth in ages, Zydrunas Ilgauskas stepped up for a postgame on-court interview and was too choked up to talk. As the confetti flew and the fans screamed, he thrust his fist into the air in a wordless sign of victory. Wednesday night, things were a little less emotional at The Q. Yes, the Cavs became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with a 91-73 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, their first-round opponent if the playoffs started today. Yes, they improved to an Eastern Conference-best 48-12 overall and an NBA-best 27-1 at home. Yes, this is the earliest they've ever clinched a spot in the postseason. Yes, their magic number for clinching their first division title since 1976 is down to six. Ho hum."

Elliott Teaford, LA Daily News: "The Lakers took today off. Coach Phil Jackson hoped it would give them a chance to relax after a difficult stretch of nine games in 15 days, a span in which it was obvious that they were growing more fatigued by the day. They lacked their usual spark during losses Friday to the Denver Nuggets and Sunday to the Phoenix Suns. They bounced back by beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, but were far from flawless during their 10-point victory. When asked late Tuesday night what he wants his players to think about as they prepare for Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jackson said, 'Nothing. I want them to take the day off and just enjoy a day. They can do whatever they want. Read books to their children. Whatever they do.'"

Ben Bolch, LA Times: "Owner Donald Sterling, frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of effort, went on a tirade in the locker room after [a recent Clippers' loss]. According to team sources, Sterling offered a blanket denunciation of the players and strongly backed Coach and General Manager Mike Dunleavy. The owner said he would be willing to trade all the players and said he was putting their future in Dunleavy's hands. 'Bottom line is he stated some views and everyone understood the views he took,' said Dunleavy, who declined to comment further. Asked if Sterling singled out any players, forward Al Thornton said, 'You'll have to ask Coach about that. He can give you more detail. Ask Sterling.'" [...] Sterling openly ranted in the press room during the game against the Spurs and pulled a Times reporter aside at halftime to voice his displeasure."

New York Post / AP: "In a move to expand their fan base, the New Jersey Nets will play their preseason games next fall in Newark and at St. John's University in New York instead of their longtime home at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands. Preseason games against the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark, and a game against the Philadelphia 76ers will be played at the Carnesecca Arena on the St. John's campus in Queens. 'We are excited to bring our team and our brand to Newark and Queens for the preseason schedule for next season,' Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said."

Press Release: "Luol Deng had an examination today by Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopedics at Rush Medical Center. A review of a repeat MRI, and CT scan of his tibia, indicate that this represents an early anterior tibial stress fracture. All of the information to date points to some mild inflammation along his tibia ,with a small irregularity within the cortical bone, with no obvious break in the inner or outer layer of bone. Symptoms, developing Saturday, when the Bulls played the Houston Rockets, prompted this recent evaluation. He has been restricted from high level activity since then. At this point, he will undergo “active rest,” meaning that he will be encouraged to challenge himself physically, and if symptoms remain minimal, he will be allowed an expeditious return to play. These decisions will be made on a day-to-day basis."

Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe: "Asked how he has adjusted to performing for the Celtics, once considered the opposition, Marbury replied, 'They weren't the bad guys, I just didn't want them to win. But now I find myself on the bench like, 'Win, we got to win this game.' But it's fun, it's a fun game, just the environment, the legends of the Celtics, the Garden — it's amazing to see the traditions at home, just to be a part of it.' Marbury is wearing No. 8 and said he is aware his preferred No. 3 has been retired in honor of Dennis Johnson. Marbury wore No. 33 in three seasons with the Nets. 'It's a perfect fit for what I'm trying to do, the way I'm going,' Marbury said of the number change. 'It's a fresh start.'"

Ed Barkowitz, Philadelphia Daily News: "The Sixers do not play again until Saturday, so they will use these next few days to try to regain the edge they had before the All-Star break. In the eight games before the break, the Sixers were 6-2. In the eight games since the break, they are 2-6. 'We have to get back to our principles, especially our defensive principles,' DiLeo said. 'We've had too many little breakdowns. We're going to have 3 good days of practice and get back our defensive principles. We're also going to work on our offensive execution, but for me, [improving] the defensive side is most important.' The perimeter defense, in particular, will be one of the primary focuses during the extended time off. Two days after Orlando made 15 of 37 threes, New Orleans used the three-point arc to suffocate the Sixers. The Hornets hit four of five daggers in the final quarter, none more lethal than Chris Paul's with a little more than a minute remaining."

Doug Smith, Toronto Star: "The Raptors play 11 games between tomorrow and the end of the month, nine of them at home, a handful that have to be in the 'winnable' column even for the most disgruntled of fans. Time to put up. Or shut up. 'This year has certainly been a year where we've been capable of losing to any team but, on the flip side, I think we've seen also that we're capable of beating every team, at home or away,' said Toronto's Anthony Parker. 'So I think that's one of the ways, as a team and individually, we keep our confidence.' But are there any indications that all of a sudden things will be different? The Raptors have not won more than three straight games this season and they've lost to such minnows as Oklahoma City and Memphis. They had an opportunity to make at least a mild statement in New York two weeks ago and they cowered."

Real GM: "The San Antonio Spurs announced today that they have released forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu from his 10-day contract. Mensah-Bonsu appeared in 3 games for the Spurs where he averaged 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 6.7 minutes. He also spent time with the Austin Toros, the Spurs affiliate in the NBA Development League. In eight games with the Toros, Mensah-Bonsu averaged 26.6 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.50 blocks in 39.8 minutes. The Spurs roster stands at 14."

Leo Standora, New York Daily News: "Knicks center Eddy Curry Wednesday countersued his former driver for allegedly leaking details of settlement talks in a sexual harassment suit against him. David Kuchinsky sued in January, claiming Curry approached him 'in the nude' and made him perform 'humiliating tasks.' Curry's suit, which also names Kuchinsky's attorneys, claims the lawyers told reporters details of private settlement talks."

Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal: "The Grizzlies found out over their past couple days of practice how much coach Lionel Hollins can nitpick a losing streak. Hollins & Co. has worked tirelessly on scoring in transition situations, limiting turnovers, and playing with more energy and intensity at the start of game — all issues as the Griz faced the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night with a seven-game losing streak in tow. But there is one area that Hollins insists hasn't required a lot of heavy lifting. 'The spirit is still there,' Hollins said. 'It's much better than when I took over. There's different phases and steps you go through. When I came, the spirit was real low. We got the spirit up. Now we're going through adversity and they have to learn to deal with that. They have to learn how to keep working no matter what the situation is.'"

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